By RJ Mitchell
DAN TRAVERS has highlighted several reasons to be cheerful about Scottish Badminton after last week’s Scottish Open.
The legendary Travers, a former World No.2 Men’s Doubles star with partner Billy Gilliland, National Coach, and president of Badminton Scotland, was providing expert analysis for broadcast on finals day at the Emirates.
Although there was no Scottish finals representation, the former BBC Scotland Sportsperson of the year believes that there are several positives to emerge from the 2023 Scottish Open.
Turning his attention to the Men’s Doubles event, which he is renowned for, and from which along with Gilliland, Dan remains the only Scottish ever Commonwealth Games badminton gold medallist, he was upbeat about the Grimley twins campaign which ended in an agonising quarter-final defeat at Danish hands.
Dan said: “The Grimleys are lovely lads and I was hoping they would do something in the absence of Alex (Dunn) and Adam (Hall) but it was very difficult as it’s Olympic qualification and you get people coming out the woodwork.
“We had people coming from Japan to play the event in the women’s doubles, as they were in search of qualification points, and in the men’s doubles the Danes are just very good.
“Basically they don’t come out of Denmark if they aren’t good! The other thing is that a lot of pressure was on the boys being defending champions, top seeds, and home expectations high they could do it.
“But they are never shy about putting their necks on the line and they gave it everything and were back competing in the Arctic Open in Finland last week (lost to Sin and Yi No.3 seeds 11-21, 16-21) so they just front up every week.”
In the Men’s Singles, Josh Apiliga battled his way through qualifying notching an impressive victory over England No.3 Nadeem Dalvi in the process and making the last 16 of the main draw before losing out to Czech No.2 seed Jan Louda.
Having coached Josh as a junior, Dan has no doubt that the Glaswegian has the firepower to make an impact at a higher level and he said: “I think Josh is a good boy and he has weapons. I have worked with him back in his junior days and it looks like he is maturing and he definitely has the power.
“The big question now for Joshua is does he have the desire and he showed plenty of that at the Scottish Open and that is promising.
“What he needs to do now is back that up and I look forward to seeing how that unfolds for Joshua.”
Also impressing Dan was 17-year-old Matthew Waring, who won a round in qualifying.
Dan was quick to pinpoint the areas of Matthew’s game which impressed him: “Matthew is a lovely player and I’ve seen him play a few times and I’m very impressed with his consistency, he makes very few errors and he could go a long way.
“The issue for Matthew is he is in the hardest event and everyone who is in Men’s Singles is an animal.
“So the question for young Matthew is how he will develop weapons to hurt players at the highest level?
“He is a smooth mover and a player with some nice shots but he needs to develop a weapon to hurt these guys.
“If he can develop these, and I am sure they are working with Matthew to achieve that, and he is only 17, then he has a big future ahead.
“But I think he also has the desire to put that work in and good luck to Matthew.”
When it came to the Women’s Doubles, where Ciara Torrance and Julie MacPherson made the semi-finals before losing to Japan’s Kawazoe and Konishi, Dan has a typically shrewd insight to share.
The former Badminton Scotland National Coach said: “Julie MacPherson impresses me so much and in fact every time I watch her I’m impressed. Ciara has also come on a ton but they need our boys to hit with them.
“The girls went flat out in the first set and the Japanese defences almost caused them to punch themselves out and then the match turned on its head.
“My thoughts here are that we need our boys to help the girls. There is no doubt that the Japanese and the Stoevas (Scottish Open winners Gabriela and Stefani Stoeva) have guys crashing shuttles at them all day long so that their defences, when they come up against a female hit, are so good.
“You have to be so patient, fit, resilient and mentally very tough. I said it in my commentary, that time after time boys don’t want to watch Ladies doubles, well the amount of unforced errors the ladies make, if the boys did that then they would be far better players!
“The point is that the girls won’t get games like that and training with two boys who can cope with their power no bother and just move them around the court, is what they need in their preparation – they really need boys hitting at them.”
To back-up his point, Dan delved into a personal experience and he recalled: “When I was head coach one day I watched an Indonesian squad, who were here for the world champs.
“So they had four male players, including their top singles player, giving one of their girls 15 minutes where they smashed everything and the boys at the front were taking it early and hitting it at her and that is how you develop the skills to cope with the top ladies doubles teams.
“So for me that day it was phenomenal to see the commitment of the males to the female members of their squad. I have no doubt that back home they will have a number of hitters who will come in for the girls.
“So we maybe don’t have that luxury and we need some of our boys to help out with this.”
Expanding on this point Dan added: “I think there is a big mistake getting made in Britain at the moment. They say to focus on one event, but for me Mixed Doubles makes you a better Ladies Doubles player as you are facing a male smash. If you can deal with a male smashing at you then you can deal with a female smash a lot easier because it just isn’t as powerful.
“So I can’t believe that they still go with one event in England.”
With Kirsty Gilmour, Alex Dunn and Adam Hall all starting a vital four event sequence in pursuit of Paris Olympic qualification points at the Arctic Open in Finland, there was one regret for Dan and he said: “It was disappointing for the home fans that they didn’t have someone to support on finals day and that Kirsty (Gilmour), Alex (Dunn) and Adam (Hall) were missing.”
Meanwhile Dan, who was invested with the President’s Award for his services to Scottish Badminton, admitted his delight at the accolade: “Unfortunately I wasn’t able to be at the awards in person to receive it but it was really nice to be made the President’s Award and I am delighted with it.”
Sharing just why she made Dan the recipient of the President’s Award, Badminton Scotland President Carolyn Young said: ”
“Dan is a true legend in Scottish Badminton as a result of the many achievements throughout his playing and coaching career. I had the privilege to witness the pinnacle of his career when he won an unforgettable Commonwealth Games Gold medal in Edinburgh in 1986 with partner Billy Gilliland. The atmosphere that day in Hall 1 was truly amazing. Not only successful as a player, reaching a high of number 2 in the World rankings in the 1980s, but as a top coach, holding the National Coach position for 10 years, achieving medals for Scotland at 3 consecutive Commonwealth Games. Dan is still as enthusiastic about badminton as he was playing at the highest level (if fully fit!) and continues to play and support Masters badminton in Scotland. He has secured 10 gold medals at both European and World Masters, with many silver and bronze to complement. Dan is truly an inspiration to all and well deserving of this recognition. His karaoke singing isn’t too bad either!”